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Immediate Reaction: Girona 1 - 4 Real Madrid

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Real Madrid turn up the gears in the second half and win convincingly

Girona FC v Real Madrid CF - La Liga Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

Real Madrid beat Girona 1 - 4 (Ramos, Benzema x 2, Bale; Borja Garcia) away from home. Here’s our quick reaction. Still to come: Player ratings, post-game podcast, and tactical review.

Bullet points from Kiyan’s notebook

  • The first half had a lot of worrying signs; which, to be fair, were somewhat rectified at half-time. As the team unfolded in a 4-2-3-1 to start, it was quickly apparent the defensive workload on Casemiro and Kroos was going to be huge. The front four didn’t do much behind the ball. The pressing was loose, and the focus from the attacking players was more about providing outlets high up the pitch rather than defending. That left the defensive transition vulnerable, and unlike the Getafe match, Real Madrid did not mask this weakness with a counter-press. All of this, combined with excellent offensive performances from Portu, Lozano, and Granell, gave Real Madrid problems.
  • It didn’t help that Marcelo was getting overrun defensively. Both he and Kroos jogged back upon the first goal conceded — but of the two, it was Kroos’s effort which was more problematic. Once Marcelo was beat, Kroos was in a position to close Borja Garcia, but was too slow to react, leaving Casemiro caught between two open markers:

  • The movement from the attack offensively was fine. It was interesting to see how Bale and Asensio would play off the shoulder of Girona’s defensive line while Benzema dropped in between the lines. Then they would rotate and form a triangle. It was never stagnant. That was fun to see. Not fun: No pressing or counter-pressing (until the second half), little help to the double-pivot defensively, and Isco playing as high as the front three.
  • While Casemiro and Kroos were overwhelmed defensively; Bale and Marcelo carried the offensive burden in the first half. Yes, Marcelo was treading water defensively, but his accurate crosses from the left were the main source of curation along with Bale’s runs and low crosses in the first 45 minutes.
  • Asensio’s first half wasn’t great. He overplayed the ball and lost it a couple times, and at other times, whipped a ball into the box without the awareness that no one was making a run inside. His second half was much better. He helped Marcelo defensively, broke lines with his dribbling, and started to have his way with Girona’s defense as Real Madrid ran up the score.
  • Ditto Isco, who looked really off all game, but popped up for a sensational assist to Bale on the counter-attack before being replaced by Modric:

  • Can we call a timeout every time Casemiro has the ball deep in our half while getting pressed?
  • The second half was just much better. I’m a huge fan of the 4-2-3-1, but the issues in the first half are why I regularly harp that it’s more about scheme rather than formation. In the second half, with the same line-up and minor adjustments (more defensive work from Asensio and Isco while more efficiency from both offensively) made a huge difference. Once Real Madrid went up 1 - 2 early in the second half, Girona got the momentum sucked out of them, and it’s always going to be hard to catch up against a Real Madrid side that hold the ball so well high up the pitch.
  • And finally, the final goal: